"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Evangelical Power within the GOP

Evangelical Power within the GOP
By 2000, Evangelicals constituted the heart of the Republicans’ core constituency. Eighty-seven percent of Evangelicals voted in 2000, and 87% of them voted for George W. Bush. They believe that free enterprise is the only economic system consistent with the Bible and that the nation’s religious heritage and values are under attack and require the protection of federal and state governments. They were certain that there is only one Christian approach to most political questions and that liberals encounter grave problems in being truly Christian. Former Senator John Danforth lamented in April 2005, “ Republicans have transformed our party into the arm of Conservative Christians.” So great was their power that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist appeared on a televised fundamentalist rally to claim that Democrats were engaging in “an assault against people of faith” because they had held up the confirmations of a few conservative nominees to the federal courts. Dr. James Dobson, an organizer of the event, went further, denouncing the federal courts because they were “unaccountable” and “a despotic oligarchy,” presumably because they did not heed the advice of fundamentalist and evangelical clergy.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman John Moran complained in February 1997 that the party was “in jeopardy” because the Christian Coalition and other rightists were on the verge of taking over the national organization. By 2002, the Christian Right comprised 28% of the GOP coalition and constituted the vast majority of the basis of the New Right. In the early nineties, the New Right was powerful enough to challenge the leadership of Country Club Republicans. Eventually, it seized control of the party in some states, including Texas.. Many of these people deny the principle of separation of church and State, wish to regain the Panama Canal, and insist that the United States should leave the United Nations.
The Christian Coalition, one of the principle elements in the Christian Right, trained 16,000 volunteers in organizing and how to speak and operate within the Republican Party. Many of them became party operatives, state legislators, and local officials. In 2002, Professors Kimberly Conger of Ohio State and John Green of the University of Akron found that in both 1994 and 2002 the Christian conservatives were well integrated in eighteen state Republican organizations, particularly in the Midwest and South. By the 1990s, the Christian conservatives were proving to be particularly effective in tight House and Senate races.

Although there was some talk in the late 1990s that the Christian Right was in decline., the reverse was true. In the years 1997-1999, Christian Right organizations generally experienced rising revenues. Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network took in $196 million and Dr. Dobson’s Focus on the Family garnered $121 million. In barely a quarter century these organizations had become stable, with predictable revenue streams and enormous political clout. Their voter guides and continual political mailings have been very effective. In addition, conservative groups within mainstream denominations were having considerable success in diverting these churches from pursuing social justice. By the turn of the century, the Presbyterians seemed likely to become an evangelical body. Methodists, who found it necessary to appease their conservative wing, took a step in that direction in 2000 by taking a tougher stand against ordaining practicing homosexuals.

Some on the Christian Right like Paul Weyrich have voiced the suspicion that the Republicans are using them, offering a few symbolic victories but little more. Though there is much evidence to support this view, few Evangelicals and fundamentalists are inclined to believe it. In October 2006, evangelical David Kuo published Tempting Faith, which argued that the George W. Bush administration was simply using the Christian Right. Kuo had been second in command of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. He claimed that though White House personnel would hug and praise evangelical leaders in public, they referred to them as “the nuts” in private. The religious leaders were also said to be “goofy” and “out of control.” In the 2004 election, the White House political shop used the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives to sponsor thinly disguised political meetings with religious leaders in twenty targeted states, and he believed that the numerous meetings in Ohio carried the state for Bush. Kuo noted that the Bush administration spent about $20 million less per year on assisting religious charities than the Clinton administration had.

Comprising more than a quarter of the Republican vote, the Christian Right became its most reliable element, its core constituency. Upper middle class and wealthy Republicans welcomed their assistance because conservative Christians made it possible to weaken regulatory legislation, hold down wages, reduce taxes for the rich and corporations, and slash welfare funding. However, the alliance was not a marriage crafted in heaven. The CEOs and suburban Republicans were uncomfortable with their allies’ positions on abortion, personal morality, education, and women’s rights. By the 1990s, Republicans were learning that in some places they faced political disaster if they promised the Religious Right too much. However, they needed the Christian Right as the core of their party and learned how to speak in culturally and theologically coded terms. It came to be understood, that the Christian Right was to receive little more than a few crumbs of symbolic victory.

Even Ronald Reagan, whose own outlook on sexual matters was probably libertarian, gave the Right little more than lip service on abortion. When the Religious Right held its annual anti-abortion rally on the Mall, Reagan would only address the crowd via a hock-up from the oval office; an annual rite which became an “open joke” among Washington insiders. George W. Bush was to occasionally repeat this ploy with similar success. In the election of 2000, it was apparent that Jerry Falwell and other leaders of the Christian Right accepted the new reality. He and Robertson endorsed George W. Bush, who did not meet all the criteria for an ideal Christian Right candidate. However, the Christian conservatives seemed perfectly happy with a few symbolic victories from time to time. The CEOs and upper middle class Republicans did not have to face the prospect of having to choose between economic benefits and enacting distasteful cultural policies.

The rhetoric of the cultural wars inflamed the Religious Right and cultural conservatives, but it also affected others who feared big government and who were generally suspicious of the intentions of Democrats. Their fear of liberalism and out-of- control big government often bred an indistinguishable anger. It would lead many of them to see politics it looked as combat and blood sport, the goal of which was not simply victories for particular policies, but to destroy the opposition. Conservative anger and paranoia about liberals were constantly fanned and reinforced on talk radio and some cable outlets and by pundits such as Ann Coulter. Over time a group bias was developed that defined opponents as profoundly immoral, and it lent itself to a moral inversion in which people saw themselves as righteous and their opponents as so evil that they should not share the same rights. The danger connected with this moral inversion was that people would lose their capacity for empathy and their moral inhibitions when dealing with others fade away.

The anger that fueled conservative politics energized voters and party workers, but it did not contribute to rational discourse. During his administration, President Bill Clinton became the focus of intense hatred. Later, some liberals admitted to a hatred of George W. Bush, and conservative columnists promptly identified the Bush haters as a “core threat to democracy.” After decades in the development of this collective psychopathology, it became very easy for many who shared this group bias to justify in 2004 the torture of Iraqi prisoners. It is doubtful that they had come to see liberals as people with fewer human rights, but in 2002 many found it easy to believe that Democratic opponents of George W. Bush were allied with terrorists.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

The Council for National Policy

A number of the conservative foundations were religious and could potentially influence hundreds of thousands of voters or more. For example, the Council for National Policy was created by Christian conservatives in 1981 and financed by T. Cullen Davis, Nelson Bunker Hunt, and others. Its first president was the very influential Rev. Dr. Tim LaHaye, who later wrote the “Left Behind” books about end times , which begin with momentous events in the Middle East. It is not clear how much influence the run-away best sellers had upon the administration of George W. Bush, but the Bush White House carefully consulted it on many matters, particularly foreign policy, and sent top-level speakers to it. The CNP temporarily had its tax exemption lifted in the 1990s because it is a secret organization and its activities could be seen as being politically partisan. Its companion organization is Concerned Women for America, led by Rev. La Beverley, a Religious Right leader.

A similar operation was the Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981, is an important organization in this Neo Conservative effort to combat U.S. Christian assistance for social justice programs in Latin America. Its goal was to prevent to prevent mainline Protestant churches from funding leftist movements south of the border. It strongly supported counterinsurgency and opposed President Jimmy Carter's efforts to promote human rights in the region. The IRD tried to project a moderate image and distance itself from the New Right. Nevertheless, some of its board members like Paul Sabury had New Right connections-- in his case, Freedom House. The Adolph Coors Trust and Richard Mellon Scaife fund it. According to Reverend Dr. Andrew Weaver, a research psychologist, IRD is behind “a systematic effort to undermine mainline churches that still have democratic, transparent processes.” By weakening the commitment of these churches on peace and justice issues, the IRD will eventually weaken the National Council of Churches as a religious conscience voice. IRD and similar groups have backed efforts to promote conservative take-overs in denominations by embroiling them in debates over wedge issues.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

Political Religion: Conservative Protestants and CAtholics Ally with GOP

Scholars have known that fundamentalism possesses a strong political dimension. These people react strongly against society as it is and seek political power in order to enforce their ideas about acceptable behavior and how society should be configured. To a substantial degree, this is also true of Evangelicals. Conservative Protestants are often dispensationalists, which is a political ideology with a carefully laid out schema about how God will work his will in the world. In the 1920s, conservative Protestants suffered serious political defeats and withdrew from politics for a time, building their own institutions, networks, and sub-culture. When the born-again reentered politics in the 1970s, they were a powerful, well-organized force with an agenda little different from that of the New Right. However, it is still not clear how successful the clergy have been in selling New Right economics to their congregations.

Falwell realized that a fundamental political realignment had occurred. He explained: “There were no longer enough militant union bosses, poor folk and minorities, urban ethnic and ‘yellow dog’ Southern Democrats to negate the growing influence of suburbanites, independents, white-collar workers or middle-class Catholics who were now prosperous and secure enough to vent their dissatisfaction with the [Democratic] party’s leftish stands on abortion, civil rights, crime and taxes.”

By the elections of 2000 and 2004, it was clear that not only conservative Protestant clergy, but also Catholic bishops had decided to abandon the historic tendency of churchmen to keep politics at arms length. What was emerging was what Emilio Gentile called “political religion,” defined by Bill Moyers as “religion as an instrument of political combat.” Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. has estimated that the alliance of the Christian Right and right wing Catholics has the potential of influencing as much as 40% of the electorate. A substantial number of Roman Catholics found common cause with the Evangelicals on the New Right in battling “hypermodern individualism,” relativism, abortion, and deteriorating moral standards. By the1990s, the priests who had defended the rights of working people and had marched in civil rights demonstrations were retiring, and they were being replaced by far more conservative men. By then, John Paul II had appointed the great majority of American bishops and many of them were inclined to ally with political conservatives. Tim Unsworth, a knowledgeable observer, reported that at least 40 bishops somewhat clandestinely worked for the reelection of George W. Bush.

Although Evangelicals had long detested Catholics, relations began to warm between them as they found common cause. They were of one mind on many cultural issues and in supporting vouchers for private schools. In 1994 Protestant New Right activist Charles Colson and Father Richard John Neuhaus founded a discussion process that resulted in a document called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” In 2000, Colson and Dr. James Dobson went to the Vatican to address the bishops on how the family has broken down. The two religious groups still disagreed on a great deal, and many Evangelicals still hated Catholics but cooperation was growing. By 2004, Pope John Paul II had a higher favorability rating among Evangelicals (59%) than Reverend Pat Robertson (54%) and Reverend Jerry Falwell (44%). By then some of the most conservative Catholic bishops were suggesting that good Catholics could not vote for pro-choice candidates and that pro-choice Catholic politicians should not present themselves for communion.

The shift of some Catholic voters was due to the fact that the New Deal policies had succeeded all too well in making Catholic people prosperous enough to consider Republican arguments. The increasing number of poor and working poor voters might be expected to counterbalance this religious political alliance, but many voters in the bottom rungs of the economic ladder were too discouraged to bother voting.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

The Unification Church: Major Financial Supporter of the Christian Right

The Unification Church has spent great sums supporting conservative causes. Since the 1970s, Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon has been involved in right-wing politics in the United States. He has been critical of democracy and calls America ”Satan’s Harvest.” Moon’s name first became associated with American politics when he was accused of funneling South Korean money to 115 members of Congress in a scandal called “Koreagate.” A House committee found he was spreading around KCIA money among members of Congress in order to influence U.S. policy. Even Reverend Moon has admitted to declining church membership, but he still has somehow found billions to invest in various ventures, many of them political in nature. Other funds were used to win allies in the American Religious Right.

It is known that the KCIA has close ties with him and that much of his money comes from Japanese yakuza gangsters Ryoichi Sasakawa and Yoshio Kodama and from various operations in Latin America. Some have suggested his organization could be involved in drug running and money laundering

Ironically, Reverend Moon was also tied to the South Korean dissident Kim Dae Jung who had long battled authoritarian regimes and had even spent time in prison for his political views. Despite Moon’s problems with South Korea’s autocratic rulers, he had ties to the Korean equivalent of the CIA, which helped the Unification Church expand elsewhere in Asia. According to the Ripon Society, a moderate Republican organization, the Unification Church gave money to the College Young Republicans in 1981 and provided cheap labor for Accuracy in Media in 1983. In 1983, Grover Norquist, then head of the College Republican National Committee, interrupted Ripon Chairman, Rep. Jim Leach at a press conference, claiming Leach was a liar in asserting that Moon money had reached the College Republicans.

In the Reagan-Bush years, Moon poured money into his Washington Times , founded in 1982, and conservative causes. Reagan called the Times his favorite paper. Moon hired conservative fund-raiser Richard Viguerie to run a slick campaign to attract subscribers. Moon solidified his ties with Viguerie by having one of his subsidiary corporations purchase a Viguerie property for $10 million. Despite these efforts, it was necessary for Moon to subsidize the paper with tens of millions of dollars in the eighties. It was a fierce defender of the Reagan administration during the Iran-Contra controversy, Moon’s American Freedom Coalition ran a video in praise of Oliver North 600 times on 100 TV stations during the Iran-Contra Controversy.

The Times, in 1988, circulated rumors about Michael Dukakis’s mental health. Reverend Moon’s lieutenants bragged that their operatives circulated 30,000,000 pro-Bush pamphlets in that year. In 1992, it suggested that Bill Clinton betrayed his country while visiting Moscow, implying the KGB had recruited him. President George W. Bush invited its editor to the White House to praise him for his contribution the conservative cause. Moon's Women's Federation for World Peace was later to pay George H. W. Bush large fees for speeches. Moon has also acquired United Press International. The paper lost huge amounts of money in the 1980s, sometimes as much as $50 million a year By 2004, Moon’s Unification Church poured $1 billion into the paper to cover its losses. George W. Bush appointed David Caprara, head of Moon’s American Family Coalition, to be director of Volunteers in Service to America.

Moon claimed that God has designated him as the second messiah, to complete the work of Jesus Christ who failed because he did not marry and have children. Though claiming to be a Christian, Moon believes Christ was not divine. In 1984, Moon began to serve thirteen months in a federal prison for a 1982 mail fraud conviction. After his release, his former daughter-in-law charged that the organization was still playing fast and loose with the law, moving cash across the borders. Though a known womanizer and despite theological views that were clearly heretical to conservative American Christians, Moon developed close ties with some Protestant fundamentalists. In 1995, a Moon front called the Christian Heritage Foundation, bailed out Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University by purchasing half of its $73 million debt for $3.5 million. In 1996, a Moon organization made a $400,000 unsecured loan to Liberty. In return for financial assistance, Falwell, who may have received as much as $76 million in assistance from Moon, appeared at Moon functions. In 1998, Elliot Abrams, an official in the administrations of both Bushs, gave spoke at three Moon rallies

Reverend Moon’s high status in Republican circles was signaled 2001 when President George W. Bush permitted onetime aid Doug Wead to arrange an Inaugural Prayer Luncheon sponsored by Moon. In 2005, his Unification Church contributed $250,000 to George H.W. Bush’s second inauguration. At Moon’s 1996 Family Federation for World Peace event, evangelists Robert H. Schuller, Beverley LaHaye appeared, as did right-wing strategist Ralph Reed and conservative politician Gary Bauer. Reed insisted that Moon’s followers were counter revolutionaries, simply intent on resisting liberal culture and values.
Direct Mail Communications, a firm owned by two Moon operatives, built a mailing list for Colonel North and worked for the National Rifle Association. It has also worked for the Republican National Committee and George W. Bush. The firm has done solicitations at less than cost for Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour, Liberty Alliance, and Liberty University. On July 26, 1994, Falwell was on hand when Moon created his Youth Federation for World Peace. Maureen Reagan was photographed at Falwell’s side. In 2002, Moon hosted a gala anniversary party for his self-proclaimed “unbiased” outlet. Conservative therapist Dr. Laura Schlesinger addressed the crowd and Moon treated them to an hour-long sermon

There can be little doubt that Reverend Moon has made a substantial contribution to the success of the Republican Party. His growing influence within the New Right is of interest in part because he has expressed disapproval of American institutions and democracy. Speaking of himself, he once said: “That is Father's tactic, the natural subjugation of the American government and population." There is almost no possibility he can accomplish this goal. He attracted some conservative American converts with his fierce anti-Communism during the Cold War, but he no longer has that tool at his disposal.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

Leaders of the Christian Right

Some major conservative Protestant preachers such as Jimmy Swaggart, Rex Humbard, and Oral Roberts did not focus on politics, and a few conservative Evangelicals took positions that could be considered liberal. Two of the most prominent spokesmen of the Christian Right were Jerry Falwell and Marion Pat Robertson. Falwell headed the Moral Majority, which was founded in the 1970s and lasted until 1989. Thereafter, the Christian Coalition became the most significant vehicle of the Religious Right. In 1994, it distributed over 30,000,000 voters’ guides. It demonstrated great skill in operating phone banks and driving people to the polls. Under Dr. Ralph Reed, its staff director, it skillfully used polling data and moved beyond moral questions to promote the economic policies of the Republican Party. In 2004, Reed was chairman of the Bush reelection campaign in the South. In 2001 and 2002, his consulting firm received $4.2 million for lobbying against and creating Christian opposition to expansion of gambling casinos in the South; more than half came from Indian casino clients anxious to prevent competition
Pat Robertson was leader of the Christian Coalition, an organization with 1,200,000 committed, hard-right members. Reverend Dr. Robertson also hosts from Virginia Beach his highly influential “700 Club” on the Christian Broadcast Network, which he controls. He also operates “Operation Blessing” to help Africans, especially refugees. However, he was caught using its airplanes to ship equipment to his diamond mines in Africa. He has investments from China to the Congo, and had a partnership with one of Africa’s most unsavory tyrants.

In 1979, Robertson denounced “the humanistic/atheistic/hedonistic influence of the American government” which was controlled by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. The television spellbinder not only influenced hundreds of thousands of voters, but he managed to collect $164,000,000 in contributions in 1997. As a result of running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, he acquired a mailing list of over 3,000,000 angry and very conservative people, a list that became his most powerful asset, which he used to build the Christian Coalition into a major political force. The good reverend used it for at least one business venture. He encountered problems with the IRS and the FEC when he loaned out the list for Oliver North’s unsuccessful run for the Senate. Greg Palast, a careful investigator, said Robertson gave his mailing list to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1992. Judy Liebert, the former chief financial officer of the Christian Coalition, insisted that Ralph Reed destroyed documents subpoened by the government. Some of them proved that the Coalition had printed Republican campaign literature.

In its in-house documents and in Robertson’s speeches, there is much harsh language about minorities and women. Coalition staffers said this was necessary to keep the contributions coming. A dismissed employee claimed that Ralph Reed, head of the coalition, destroyed subpoenaed documents. Robertson’s great following prevented the federal government from taking decisive action, but he did close the Christian Coalition and reestablished it with a slightly different name, the Christian Coalition of America. In 2000, he helped his friend George W. Bush win in Republican primaries in Virginia and South Carolina by portraying John McCain as ungodly. In 2003, he joined in the far right’s attack on the career elements in the State Department, stating, “If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that’s the answer.” Robertson and Falwell were mainly concerned with, abortion, sexual morality, anti-gun control, opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, and opposition to gay rights. They advocated school prayer, opposed sex education and backed teaching creationism or at least “teaching the controversy,” which means discussing both evolution and creationism in the science class. They demand that textbooks print disclaimers to the effect creationism was at least as good an explanation for human origins as human evolution. To accomplish their ends, they began running school board candidates in the eighties and quickly entered state politics. By 2003, Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma had laws requiring this.

Soldiers of the Christian Right were also interested in enlisting Christ in the Cold War, and Falwell assured his followers that “Jesus was not a pacifist. He was not a sissy.” The Religious Right operated telephone banks and was very effective at get-out-the vote operations. At election time, Falwell’s allies passed out voter guides on Sundays. By the nineties, they sponsored attack-advertising campaigns in some states where they were particularly interested in electing Republican senators. Reverend Tim LaHaye also entered the political arena in the late seventies. He was initially motivated by a desire to battle President Jimmy Carter’s plans to strip Christian schools of tax exemptions if they practiced racial discrimination. Soon, his concerns broadened to include the full agenda of the Christian Right.

Another powerful Christian evangelical spokesman was Dr. James Dobson, who built his following addressing family values. “Focus on the Family,” Dobson’s radio broadcast reached 7.5 million listeners per week in 2002. Gary Bauer, a conservative Christian politician, ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Although his showing was not impressive, he built up a network of 100,000 activists who petition politicians when he gives the signal. These leaders realize that anger is the energy source that gives their movement life and vitality, and they have proven to be very effective at playing upon anger and transforming it into conservative Republican political activism.

Dr. Dobson’s messages are carried on Salem Communication’s network, which owns 103 stations and has more than 1,900 affiliates. Christian radio stations are growing at a rapid rate, and it is estimated that 100 million people listen to them. Except perhaps in the case of the campaign to recall Gray Davis, the stations have avoided obvious political involvement, but their messages are nonetheless unmistakable. Recently Dobson has been assisting a young evangelist who promises to be a very effective successor to Robertson and Falwell, Rod Parsley of Columbus, Ohio, a pastor of a 12,000 mega church in the Columbus suburbs. Though white, his worship and preaching style has attracted many African-Americans. He is credited with doubling the number of African American Republican votes in 2004, when he cris-crossed the state with Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, denouncing gay marriage. As a preacher he combines cultural wars issues with the prosperity gospel. Services are like pep rallies, the atmosphere is sweaty and emotion filled. Parsley holds that compliant, tithing Christians will be assisted by God in realizing their material dreams.

In his preaching, he stops just a shade short of endorsing a party or candidate but the message is unmistakably. He favors legislation that would permit clergy to discuss parties and candidates in church. Borrowing from his friend former Senator Zel Miller, he calls himself a “Christocrat.” Through Reformation Ohio, he seeks a million converts and 400,000 new voters. For him religion and politics are reverse sides of the same coin, and he explicitly endorses the entire Republican economic agenda, even questioning the value of Social Security and Medicare. Since the November 2004 election he has appeared with many prominent Republican leaders, explaining to party operatives how best to exploit culture wars issues and appeal to much greater numbers of blacks. When George W. Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Parsley shared a conference call with him to introduce the candidate to ministers across the nation. Though a Bible College dropout, Parsley is considered by hundreds of ministers to be anointed by God to lead conservatives in the next phase of the culture war. Parsley took over a major mega church in Colorado Springs in late 2006 after its pastor admitted homosexual practices.

Reverend Doug Coe is one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders. He is little know and keeps a low profile. Yet he is the friend of presidents and counts many Washington figures as friends and followers, including Senator Hillary Clinton. He operates The Fellowship, which puts on the annual National Prayer Breakfast, and operates out of an estate on the Potomac called the The Cedars. He claims to be non-political, but his followers are mostly on the right. Mrs. Clinton sought comfort in its ranks during the Lewinsky scandal. She is a member of a Bible study group and an all female prayer cell. Some say that The Fellowship practices “cobelligerency” in welcoming non-conservatives. Evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer used this term to describe alliances evangelicals found it necessary to develop with Roman Catholics. The Fellowship or Family does admit to waging “spiritual war” on behalf of Christ.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Christian Reconstructionists

There are other evangelical Christians, also political conservatives, who do not accept this approach to End Times. They believe that Christians must gain control of government before Christ will return. These Christian Reconstructionists believe that they must rule and establish the Kingdom of God before Christ will come. They detest the First Amendment and want to rule using a literal interpretation of biblical law “Dominionists” or Reconstructionists want to restore Old Testament law, uphold capitalism, and abolish business regulations. They claim as many as 20,000, 000 followers, but this figures appears to be a great exaggeration. Nevertheless, they are growing rapidly, and they exert a great influence within the evangelical movement.

Reconstructionists are the driving force behind the evangelical attacks on public schools and science. They have clearly taken over the Presbyterian Church in America, but not the moderate Presbyterian Church (USA). They have also made inroads in the Southern Baptist Convention. Republican parties in twenty states have adopted their “A Christian nation” platforms. They believe women should be subordinated to men, and in the best situation, not vote. Gary North, one of their leaders, calls for the stoning of nonbelievers and gays. Even some of his friends call him “Scary Gary.” Herb Titus, another leader, claims the First Amendment protects the right to criticize government but it does not guarantee freedom of speech. They also oppose separation of church and state and emphasize the importance of religious schools. Under leader Gary De Mar, head of America Vision and leader of the Restore America rally, they are growing in influence.

George W. Bush fashioned his compassionate conservatism on the work of one of their most prolific writers, Marvin Olasky. Of course, De Mar is their most prolific writer. Their goal is control of the USA and exclusion of non-believers from citizenship and the franchise. They envision thousands of executions a year, including those of witches and women who lie about their sexual pasts. Reconstructionists play an important role in the Council for National Policy, a group that coordinates the political activities of the Religious Right.

The Reconstructionists advocate a form of Dominionism. Christopher Hedges has suggested that the Christian Right, practically as a whole, is comprised of Dominionists. This suggests they reject the secular state, but it is more likely that those who go that far are far less numerous. However, he is right in saying that the mindset of the Christian right promotes outlooks that short-circuit reality-based thinking. Indeed, rational discussion with many of these people becomes very difficult, if not impossible. Millions whose economic condition is not good tend to think that God has a plan to resolve their problems. People in despair over their conditions and believing they have no real social identity achieve a kind of heroism by joining conservative religious movements. Their outlook, both political and religious, breeds intolerance and strips those who disagree of legitimacy as actors in a republic. Hedges claim that the New Right and Religious right pump “garbage” “day in and day out into people’s minds [which] poisons the civic discourse of the nation and is going to have an effect in a moment of instability.”

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

End Times and Christian Zionism

End Times and Christian Zionism
The Religious Right has abandoned its traditional anti-Semitism. Many noted that beginning in the late 1970s, the State of Israel had done a great deal to court the Christian Right. About half of American Christians at that time believed that the battle of Armageddon was in the not too distant future and that the establishment of a greater Israel was a precondition for this event. In 1978, the Begin government even made a private jet available to Jerry Falwell so that he could spread his political message.

Many conservative Christians adhere to a dispensational worldview that promises an early end to the world, rewards for the saved, and terrible suffering and punishment for others. Nineteenth Century preachers who strung together in unique manner Biblical passages to support their particular view of the future crafted this view. It included the view that the Jews must recover Israel before the end times can commence. The second coming of Christ will not occur at that time. They teach that Jews will reconquer all of the Holy Land and all non-Jews will leave. Then the anti-Christ will conquer the area, prior to the triumph of the returning Messiah in the Battle of Armageddon. Before the battle, believers will be lifted without clothing in rapture to sit next to God the Father and watch as others suffer It is possible that the foreign policy of the Christian Right for the Middle East is guided by a desire to hasten the End Times. The Evangelicals rarely tell their Jewish political allies that most Jews must become Christians before the battle and that those who do not will burn to death.

Kevin Phillips has estimated that 55% of the Republican base believes in the nearness of the rapture and Armageddon. Given this belief, they are unlikely to be concerned by reckless policies that hasten massive disorder in the Middle East. Similarly, they are unlikely to worry about the consequences of unwise environmental policy or the results of huge deficits and excessive spending. “Because when Christ comes back, they are going into a whole new ball game.”

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Timothy LaHaye’s Left-Behind series of twelve books on these events sold millions of copies and were on the best seller list. These volumes laid out the dispensationalist view of end times and reinforce the promise that Christ will take believers off the earth in rapture before the final struggle between good and evil. Many Evangelicals are also Christian Zionists because a healthy state of Israel is necessary for the unfolding of End Times. Some of them have founded the International Christian Embassy-Jerusalem to spread their views in 1980. Most evangelical Christians are dispensationalists who believe that Israel must reconstruct a state before end times can begin. For that reason, they become Christian Zionists. Some call them the “Armageddon lobby,” because they promote a foreign policy that includes the complete Israeli annexation of the West Bank, designed to touch off the final battle between good and evil. Before the Messiah returns, an extremely charismatic anti-Christ must emerge who will challenge the Jewish state. In this time of tribulations, 144,000 Jews will become evangelical Christians and will eventually be raptured along with the rest of God’s elite.

When Congressman Jim Moran resisted the invasion of Iraq and complained of excessive Israeli influence on US policy, the outcry from the Evangelicals was important in forcing him to resign as regional Democratic whip. In the same year, 2003, President Bush complained about Israeli assassinations of Palestinian leaders, but he was forced by the Christian Zionists to reverse his position.

Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, established in 1977, and other Christian Right organizations contribute to ICEJ. The Christian Right believes that there should not be a Palestinian State because that would interfere with the Second Coming, a position that made them allies of the most militant elements in Israel .John Hagee, pastor of the San Antonio Church of the Cornerstone, is a major Christian Zionist leader and hosts an annual event honoring Israel. In 2006, he called for the bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities by the US or Israel. An observer at his annual event honoring Israel said:” I’ve never been in any place that called itself a Christian setting where there was such hatred.” Christian Zionists profess love for Jews and occasionally hatred for Muslims, but a recently released tape of a conversation between Richard M. Nixon and Reverend Billy Graham suggests that some suspicion of Jews remains. Graham complained to Nixon about Jewish control of the media and said, “ This stronghold has to be broken or this country’s going down the drain.” He added that if Nixon won a second term, “then we might be able to do something” about it.

Robertson retained influence until the turn of the century, when some of his comments struck many as being somewhat over the top. Nevertheless, he still was able to influence millions. Along the way, he entered some very questionable business relationships. He was involved in the African diamond trade, and was a business partner of brutal Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. The charismatic broadcaster has set aside a $2 billion endowment to carry his ministry when it passes to his son Gordon. Robertson operates a large university and law school, which has placed 150 law graduates in the administration of George W. Bush. The school’s name, Regent University, reflects his theocratic philosophy in that “a regent is one who governs in the absence of sovereign “ Robertson’s father was Senator Absalom Willis Robertson, mentor of Senator Prescott Bush. Rev erend Robertson considers himself primarily a businessman rather than a televangelist, and the policies he advocates never conflict with the economic interests of his class.

In 2002, Christian Zionists thought Saddam Hussein clearly posed a major threat to Israel, and his alleged weapons of mass destruction could someday be deployed against the Jewish state. George W. Bush’s plan to invade Iraq appealed to conservative Christians who were firm supporters of Israel because they thought that the world’s last war would begin in the Holy Land. That terrible war, they were certain, would be preceded by the rapture, in which God would shield them from harm by lifting them out of this earth. Reverend Jerry Falwell appeared on “Sixty Minutes” to say that he was sure “Muhammad was a terrorist.” On October 11, the Christian Coalition held Christian Solidarity with Israel on the Washington Mall. Featured participants were Donna Rich Hughes (once Gary Hart’s illicit girlfriend, Falwell, Tom DeLay, Pat Robertson, Oliver North, and Jesse Helms. The event’s planners planned to pray for success against abortion, pornography, drugs, and “other manifestations of moral decline.”

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

The Christian Right

In the United States, right-wing populism appealed to an element that was not so important in Europe--evangelical, fundamentalist, and traditional Christianity. What has developed is, in the words of Italian writer Emilio Gentile "political religion, " defined as the use of religion, its language and symbols for political combat. The Christian adherents of the New Right-wing populism have been called the Religious or Christian Right. The Religious Right provided the most dedicated foot soldiers of the New Right, especially conservative Protestants who were reentering the political arena in the 1970s. Forty-two percent of American voters describe themselves as born-again, and about 75% of them have come to support the Republican Party. In time the majority of traditionalist Catholics joined them on the Religious Right. Opposition to abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, and homosexual practice unified it. Some members of the Christian Right differ from non-Religious Right-wing populists in that they are interested in eroding the wall separating church and state, and they are even more opposed to an open society. Some on the Christian Right adhere to "dominionism," the belief that true Christians must acquire political power and lead the nation by carrying our their biblical principles. In the past evangelical Christians sometimes refrained from political involvement.

Many supported born-again Jimmy Carter for president, but they did not long remain in the Democratic camp. They began to organize as a political force when the Carter administration began to threaten the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University and of segregated Christian schools, mainly in the South. Bob Jones was not segregated; its offense was forbidding blacks and white students to date. Neither was abortion the issue that brought them together, but it soon became their cement shortly before the 1980 election.

In 1981, the southern Baptists called for legalizing abortion and other white Evangelicals supported it. The Roe decision in 1973 initially attracted little opposition from white Evangelicals, many of them had supported legalized abortion, but they were to reverse their stand on this and support Governor Ronald Reagan for the presidency. He too reversed his position on the question after having signed the nation’s most sweeping pro-abortion law.

The Christian Right took shape in the 1970s, and was helped come into being by conservative operatives and strategists Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, E.E. McAteer, and Howard Phillips. Their strategy proved to be so effective that one would expect it to have been hatched by several brilliant sociologists. In a 1976 interview, Viguerie said they were busy building support among white Evangelicals and getting "preachers into politics." They focused on ministers like Reverend Jerry Falwell, who believed America was being ruled by the "wicked." Christian Voice, an important evangelical group, was then saying that “Satanist forces” were attacking America. This kind of black and white thinking did not invite dialogue, only fear, anger, and determination to seize power. By 2005, members of the Christian Right were announcing that those who opposed efforts to strip Democratic Senators of the right to filibuster against Republican judicial nominees were enemies of God. Republican Congressman Christopher Shays admitted that his party had been transformed into the "party of theocracy." Former Senator John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, observed that his party had been transformed "into the political arm of conservative Christians. "In most respects, there was a meshing of views and attitudes between the white Evangelicals and the right-wing populists. Even many members of the evangelical Churches, while usually voting for Republicans, were much more inclined to agree with their ministers on the evils of feminism or abortion than on other questions.

Perhaps they were acting at the polls more as right-wing populists than as Evangelicals, but certainly the appeals to the Religious Right helped activate their populism. Whether as Evangelicals or as populists, they were equally disposed to demand that the United States take a more assertive role in world affairs, and they were frustrated when foreign countries failed to heed the leadership of this virtuous nation. Both were likely to see the Vietnam War as a noble venture. For decades, this burning nationalism or what scholars call "foreign policy fundamentalism" had been firmly suppressed by a bipartisan foreign policy establishment. With the election of George W. Bush, those favoring a far more aggressive and assertive foreign policy took power, and public outrage over the terrible events of September 11, 2001 made it possible for them to implement their policies. For some on the Christian Right, the invasion of Iraq was predicted in the Book of Revelation and should be seem as a large step toward the events of end times when one third of humankind is slain and millions of sinners are sent to eternal hellfire and torment .

The Religious Right draws its greatest strength from conservative and evangelical Protestants. It is estimated that there are at least 70 million fundamentalists and Evangelicals in America. They attend over 200,000 churches, many of which have gradually become centers of Republican politics. If one thinks of God as the symbol of peace, compassion, and unity, it is necessary to remember that Reverend Gary Frazer likes to cite Isaiah 53, which proclaims God a warrior and stern judge.

Fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants began to enter politics some years after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Francis Schaeffer, their most important theologian and leader, was stunned by the decision, and called on his followers to enter the arena and do battle for the Lord against secular humanism. But it took time for his followers to heed his call to action. Eventually, Christian leaders would have a major voice in the inner sanctums of government through the Council for National Policy, which Schaeffer disciple Tim LaHaye helped found. Its membership is secret but is thought to include clergy, industrialists, politicians, and activists. A smaller inner circle called the Arlington Group stays in regular telephone touch and meets about twice a month in Washington. Jerry Falwell admits to being part of this inner circle. By 2006, he was sending a monthly newspaper to 200,000 evangelical pastors, enlightening them on political matters and telling them what they needed to do about these political questions.

Most members of the Religious Right came from conservative Protestant denominations, but some came from mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic and Jewish faiths. By the late 1970s, the Democrats were beginning to lose many Catholic voters, but this development was not noted until the appearance of Reagan Democrats in 1980. Pentecostals, who had grown from 2 million members in 1960 to 12 million, were also a major part of the Religious Right coalition. The concept of cultural wars, as it is currently used, postulates progressive-traditionalist cleavage across a range of denominations. Thus, there would be some progressives in evangelical Protestant denominations, but political conservatives would be far more numerous in those groups. For a half-century, fundamentalist and evangelical refused clergy to talk politics from the pulpit or become involved in political action for fear this would be sinful and taint their efforts to bring people to God. By 2000, there was no question that they had become overwhelmingly Republican and often were seen as campaign-givers, community activists, and campaigners. Among Jews, there is an historical tendency to support progressive politics, but the number of politically conservative Jews has been rising, particularly as the Religious Right has come to support the State of Israel.

The Southern Baptists were to become the largest Protestant denomination and the center of the Religious Right, having grown from 7,080,000 to 15,044,000 members between 1950 and 2000. By 1968, the Democrats were only able to capture 24.2% of the Southern Baptist vote. By 2000, George W. Bush claimed about 70% of the Baptist vote. Four years later, he was greeted with great enthusiasm at the convention of the Southern Baptist Convention and the president of the SBC praised him as a man of personal faith whose leadership is great for America. Increasingly other born-again Christians gave their votes to Republican candidates. From 1976 to 2000, the percentage of born again Christians in the U.S. population increased from 34% to 45%, which gave the GOP a growing advantage in elections.

Of course, not all Evangelicals voted Republican. Black Evangelicals tended to vote strongly Democratic and a few small peace and justice evangelical groups such as the Sojourners Fellowship were open to voting Democratic but in 2000, 84% of white Evangelicals voted for George W. Bush. Members of the Assemblies of God are very likely to vote Republican, and their numbers have swollen 18.6% from 1990 to 2000. Members of the Latter Day Saints Church, although they are not Evangelicals, are among the most reliable Republican voting groups, and they have grown 19.3% in the same period. They are, however, fully engaged participants in the culture war.

Many of the conservative Protestant churches are thriving today because they offer in abundance the benefits of what scholars call popular religion. People, who feel adrift in a chaotic, pluralistic world, find in these religions the emotional support, stability, and reassurance they need to fit into reality as it is. Particularly the fundamentalists among them feel like outsiders in American society. Industrial, cosmopolitan, secular America has colonized their neighborhoods and regions, and they deeply resent it. Since the 1960s, many parts of the South have been experiencing in-migration, rapid industrialization, and urbanization. Many of the people moving south have different religions and cultural backgrounds. The process has gone on long enough now that some native southerners are seeing their children adopt ideas and modes of behavior that violate traditional norms.

They see a cultural invasion occurring that brings alien ideas and influences. They feel that they are under attack and fear uncertainty and much of modern and postmodern culture. Experts, science, the media, and the revolution in sexual behavior threaten the world they knew and loved. Born- again Christians tend to join the Christian Right, but they are not immune to the cultural climate of the times. In 2003, 39% of them thought it was morally acceptable for unmarried couples to cohabit, and a slightly higher percentage of them have experienced divorce than other Americans. Yet, they seem to feel greatly threatened by the new morality, and they are clearly very uncomfortable with cultural pluralism.

People like Paul Weyrich, a Catholic in the Religious Right, frequently say, “We are talking about Christianizing America. We are talking about simply spreading the Gospel in a political context.” Their talk of Christianizing America and creating a “thoroughly Christian republic” unsettles many, but they are convinced this is what God intended when Europeans settled North America. Some hold to a dominion theology, which means that God has given them the mission to control the world’s main institutions and to enforce the Mosaic law. They object to a society where there are few distinctions between the sexes, homosexuals and lesbians are tolerated, creationism is not taught in the schools, and abortion is tolerated. Warren Chisum, a Republican leader of the Texas House of Representatives, even argued in 2007 that the teaching of evolution should be banned because the theory was based on “Rabbinic writings” and other Jewish materials. For religious conservatives, attacking the free enterprise system and championing the equality of all were also signs of social disintegration. In their view, secular humanism meant hedonism and dissolute lives as well as a plot to spread these infections throughout society. . Conservative Christians and Jews see secular humanism as a rival religion, and they equate it with political liberalism. The secular humanism they attack is a caricature in many ways. There are many secular humanists who are economic and political conservatives.

Religious and cultural conservatives are not looking for a belief system that challenges the main outlines of American society; rather it must uphold the beliefs they learned as young people. They need assurance that what exists is fundamentally good and will eventually work to their benefit. By the same token, they want a God who is on duty all the time helping them. To the extent that these religions have a social theology it is unspoken and legitimizes the social and economic status quo. They channel and vent their frustrations with the world as it is by focusing upon efforts to change the personal behavior of others and dealing with cultural matters such as opposing abortion or gay marriages. Among many, there is an intense religious and cultural fundamentalism, which pervades their entire lives and those of their immediate friends.

This powerful “fusion of politics and ultimate meaning” produces determined and effective political operatives who can be capable of ruthlessness and intense anger. Conservative Protestants ally with the New Right in part because they perceive them as strong defenders of traditional family values and individual virtue. Most of these conservative Christians believe that the role of the church is to promote personal virtue. They oppose church involvement in promoting social justice because that is difficult to define and because this quest had distracted liberal religion from the primary objective of promoting individual salvation. Lacking a theology of social justice and preoccupied with personal virtue, most conservatives came to support the G.O.P.

Not all Christian conservatives and Evangelicals vote Republican. Polling data shows that a large group of Evangelicals identified as “centrist Evangelicals “ listed economic and welfare issues above gay marriage and abortion in importance by more than 20%. They had not forgotten the traditional Christian concern for the poor and downtrodden. There are also signs that Evangelicals are showing more interest in protecting the environment. In early 2007, Reverend Richard Cizik, the Washington policy director for the National Association of Evangelicals, expressed concern about global warming. He was quickly denounced by Dr. James Dobson and other Christian Right leaders because he shifted attention from the “great moral issues of the day,” rather than teaching children abstinence, and opposition to abortion, homosexuality, and gay marriage. Nevertheless, Cixik’s organization stood behind him and had him deliver the keynote message at its annual meeting. Thirty-eight of thirty- nine voting directors also backed a statement expressing concern about the environment, poverty, human rights, and the treatment of prisoners of war and detainees. The statement was first adopted three years ago. The organization speaks for 30,000,000 of some 60 million evangelicals. However, when these people go to the polls other concerns usually trump the environment and concern for the poor. Some Evangelicals have even taken to expressing concern about the environment.

The Third Way Culture Project acquired some publicity in 2007 as effort on the part of some evangelicals to end the culture war and drain the vitriol and anger from the discussion of what have been considered wedge issues. These people also showed interest in environmental and poverty questions. It is thought that some younger conservative Christians are sympathetic to efforts such as this and that of Reverend Cizik.

It is most likely that the sense of victimhood and the belief that there is an elite conspiring against Middle America will trump these concerns. The Alliance Defense Fund, found in 1994, plays to this sense of Christian victimhood. It busily attacks homosexuals and claims that Nickelodeon has a homosexual agenda. It frequently launches law suites to chip away at the wall separating church and state and succeeded in forcing the Commonwealth of Virginia to fund Christian clubs in its universities. It National Litigation Academy has trained 900 lawyers to litigate cultural issues. In 2006, it took in $21,000,000.

The contemporary Christian Right's crusade for family values has shaped this identification with the Republican Party, the result of which is that the family has taken the place of the Christian community as the center of attention. The individual's duties to the family have become much more important than those to the community. Attention is now diverted from one’s duties to the poor and marginalized, and the radical communal vision that Christianity has historically projected is sharply displaced. Because homosexuality has no function in creating the bourgeois family, it is something to be opposed at all costs. The new roles women are assuming also conflict with this cult of domesticity, but there is evidence that conservative Protestants are learning to accept many of them.

Among the most important religious lobbying organizations were Christian Voice and Stop-ERA, the latter of which was run by Phyllis Schlafley, a Roman Catholic. Although, it was relatively small, it had considerable influence. More than any other person, she was responsible for bringing about the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her rhetorical posture was always that of battling evil. Her opponents were never downright wrong or confused, but evil, and the very fate of civilization as we know it was always at stake. Who knows if she was really serious? She pioneered this style while Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter were still children, and this form of argumentation eventually became standard among the New Right and on talk radio and conservative cable television. In a class of his own among shock jocks, was Don Imus. He once called a respected black journalist a “cleaning lady” and said one of his producers was hired to pen “nigger jokes.” His true beliefs were unclear. He tended to mock Democrats and to go easy on Republicans, but this might have been because he concluded that talk radio’s audience responded best to such talk. In 2007 he went too far, ridiculing blacks on Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team, and he was fired by CBS and MSNBC. It would be difficult to deny that rants and the obnoxious style of most of talk radio has been very effective in generating Republican votes, but they clearly have done great damage to civility in politics .

The Christian Right was voicing these social concerns in the 1970s, but it was not until the late 1980s and the collapse of Communism that it became apparent to Republican strategists that these cultural issues, such as the campaign for the revival of traditional sexual and family values, would be their ticket to dominance in Washington. This cultural crusade would infuse conservative politics with the passion that anti-Communism had at its peak. Republican strategist William Kristol recently explained to Princeton students that religion was becoming “the defining force in U.S. politics”. Beginning in 1972, cultural, social and religious divides began to become more salient, more important, in explaining people’s voting behavior.

By embracing the economic doctrines of the so-called free market, the Christian Right may have opted into a “ creeping libertarianism” which brings with it moral relativism, advocacy of the supremacy of “freedom of choice” in all matters, and materialism. Many observers see most America as a “therapeutic democracy” whose citizens are “easygoing, nonjudgmental moral libertarians who are primarily concerned with material comforts. “

Evangelical Protestants have attempted to use secular psychology for their own purposes; it is possible that they will come to accept the idea that psychological well-being should be the basis for deciding what is moral conduct. There is some evidence that Evangelicals often discuss biblical morality in terms of whether it makes psychological sense, rather than the other way around. Given that the Christian Right has accepted economic libertarianism, materialism, and the premises of modern psychology, one wonders whether they can resist eventually accepting the behavior they have long condemned. In the long run they will have great difficulty defending moral relativism and materialism in the economic realm while speaking about moral absolutes in sexual matters. Amitai Etzioni has suggested that another problem of the Christian Right is that they tend to “protest lurid rap songs much more than the severe beating of several African Americans by the police.”

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The New Right Within the GOP

By the late 1970s, the New Right was becoming a very powerful force in American conservative community. The New Right still did not dominate the Republican National Committee in 1979, and its leaders complained about the way the RNC distributed money among candidates. Beginning in 1977, Bill Brock led the RNC in modernizing its operations and developing a much larger donor base by appealing to New Right cultural concerns. In 1980, the New Right held 40 of 435 House Seats and ten seats in the Senate. In the Reagan years, there were sharp clashes between the New Right and other Republicans, but the New Right was gaining ground. In 1995, the Speaker of the House was a member of the New Right, and a year later Republican leaders in both Houses were from the New Right. Other Republicans were learning that New Right rhetoric raised money, attracted volunteer workers, and brought in votes. In 1978, they backed a Democrat over George W. Bush in a Texas House race because they thought Bush was a “blue-stocking” Republican like his father, and many of them sat out the 1992 presidential election because George H.W. Bush broke a promise not to raise taxes. He had done sin in return for a Democratic promise to limit spending because a massive debt was threatening the nation’s economic health.
In the 1990s, the New Right was the core of the Republican party and dominated its caucuses in Congress. Other Republicans also learned that the New Right punished other Republicans who appeared too moderate or too willing to do business with Democrats. Moderates came to be defined as those who adhered to traditional Republican fiscal restraint and who were uneasy with the extremism of the cultural conservatives. Their critics called them RINOS, Republicans in Name Only because they did not walk in lock step with their much more numerous conservative colleagues. In time, some of they were called “gypsy moths.”

By the count of Representative Mike Castle, president of the Republican Main Street Coalition, there were still 45 House Republican moderates, of a total of 229, in 2003. His count might be correct, but most of the 45 have been intimidated into moving right. In the House, they have been stripped of committee chairmanships for insufficient loyalty or for not raising enough money for the party. Some of them have faced costly primary fights with well-financed conservatives. While they usually managed to survive, the message was clear to them and other moderates.
As they retire in frustration or die, they are replaced by hard-liners. In the 2006 by-elections, the voters removed one moderate Republican senator and a number of House moderates in part because their presence had helped the GOP control both houses.

There was a time when the Republican Party was an uneasy coalition of moderates like Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and Gerald Ford of Michigan. The moderates are now shrinking in size and frequently afraid to vote their convictions, and the party is run by hyperconservatives from George W. Bush on down to the leadership in both houses of Congress. . Over time, the Right defeated a number of moderates and liberals in primaries; among them: Clifford Case of New Jersey, Tom Kuchel of California, and Jacob Javits of New York. In 2004, the New Right, funded by t he Club for Growth almost defeated Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Subsequently, Specter found it necessary to make a number of promises to the Right in order to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specter’s close call with political extinction probably convinced the remaining Republican moderates in Congress that they must follow the New Right leadership or lose their seats.

In challenging these moderates and liberals, the New Right had the advantage of superior financial resources, but their greatest asset was a Republican electorate that had been moving to the right for some time. Senator Specter had great difficulties in Allegheny County, once a stronghold of moderate Republicanism but now reflecting more and more the views of Senator Rick Santorum. Ironically, Santorum and a number of moderate Republicans were defeated in the 2006 reaction against the unsuccessful war in Iraq. It seems the moderates were defeated because they were helping the GOP control Congress. Some suggest the election showed that the party must move toward the center, but the fact is that there are not many moderate Republicans in Washington to help the party set a new course.

Of course, although not all Republicans are from the New Right, it does tend to dominate Republican primaries and the party’s leadership in Congress. By the late 1990s, they had been around so long that they were often called ideological conservatives rather than the New Right. Most other Republicans are what can be called pragmatic conservatives. They avoid the harsh rhetoric of the ideologues and abandon New Right positions when necessary. Nevertheless, the New Right controls the party’s core, and that enables the New Right to dominate the GOP. This political worldview offered fairly simple explanations of and solutions to problems and was an ideology that appealed to the true believer and those who needed to face the world with an arsenal of certainties. It was an outlook that inspired and sustained passion. On the other hand, the liberalism that grew out of the progressive era and the New Deal was a form of pragmatism and rationalism that was animated by commitments to justice and compassion. This pragmatic outlook had no place for absolutes and placed a premium on demonstrably useful ideas. Liberal pragmatists believed that a science of governance could be developed and that government could be employed to improve the lives of citizens. However, it rarely was the source of passion.

Belief in absolute ideas remained powerful among conservatives, and the strength of these convictions was capable of fueling great passion and zeal. The arguments of the New Right and the thought of the neoliberals together constitute a powerful de facto ideology that has come to constitute the dominant political and societal worldview in the United States. The so-called New Democrats have only been able to ward off its most destructive applications by accepting many Republican tenets. To survive in politics, Democrats have had to avoid outright denunciations of neo-liberalism and the New Right. In 2006, Democrats regained control of Congress in part by avoiding cultural issues and rarely challenging many economic policies.

Anger and fear intensified belief in these New Right ideas, creating a strongly believed ideology that was impervious to factual information. In time a form of groupthink developed in the conservative subculture that simply filtered out any information that seemed contradictory. Over time, a foreign policy component to the ideology emerged, and again there seemed to be a process at work that simply rejected any information that suggested that any foreign policy initiative that sprang from it could be risky or lead to disaster. For example, even after the occupation of Iraq had become a quagmire in 2003 and 2004, conservatives simply rejected any information that called their course into question. In 2006, many voters found they could no longer overlook the unfolding disaster in Iraq, but their decision to give the Democrats a chance at power did not mean that the time-tested cultural issues of the New Right had lost their potency.

Enlisting in the cultural war gave people a sense of being associated with a noble cause and gave life meaning. The attack of al Qaeda terrorists on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 provided the Republican Party with a particularly powerful war psychology and an opportunity to capitalize indefinitely on people’s fears . Soon America was involved in a protracted international war on terror against an “axis of evil.” Battles were to be fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the homeland itself was threatened. Supporting this war effort bestowed a great sense of meaning, as every nation has a latent “passionate yearning for a nationalist cause that exalts us, the kind that war alone is able to deliver.” Whoever is leading a nation in such a time is seen as a fearless, effective leader. People in wartime situations desperately want to believe in the existing leadership. The Bush administration did everything possible to expand the heroic image war bestowed upon him, and there was “little that logic or fact or truth” could do to tarnish this image. Those who questioned the leader risked the wrath of many voters. Many had already learned to fear that liberals would destroy traditional American culture. Now they were to learn that only George W. Bush could protect them from physical attack, and that the dreaded liberals might dismantle America’s defenses. It was potent stuff.

As Slovenian cultural theorist and philosopher Slavoj Zizek noted, modern-day ideologists are almost impervious to factual information. “The way ideology works today is much more mysterious ....There’s an active refusal to know.... The key factor is not that people are duped--there’s an active will not to know.” Zizek used the example of the belief of a majority of Americans that the al Qaeda terrorists were allied with Iraq even though the great preponderance of evidence suggested otherwise. People would not abandon that view or the falsehood that Iraqis were behind the 9/11 attack on the United States because they needed reassurance that their faith in the nation’s elected leader was justified and that they were in good hands. A reporter who interviewed delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention, repeatedly heard that the invasion of Iraq was justified because “ ‘they’--meaning Iraqis” struck us on 9/11. Theirs was a belief system that could not be cracked. He thought it was that of “ the minority of a minority,” but polling data in that year suggested a much larger number held this belief system. The journalist correctly noted, “In this belief system, the arguments of their opponents carry, essentially, no weight whatsoever....”Their belief system precluded even considering information that conflicted with it.

The traditional conservative thinker John Lukacs wrote, "when...temperance is weak, or unenforced, or unpopular, then democracy is nothing else than populism. More precisely: then it is nationalist populism....the fundamental problem of the future." Right-wing populism easily morphed into nationalist populism. Anyone objecting to any policy that claimed to be part of the war on terrorism was likely to have her patriotism questioned. Jim Gibbons, a Republican Congressman from Nebraska, was to say it was "too damn bad we didn’t buy {critics of the Iraq war} tickets to become human shields there. He also said those who complained about corporate contributions to President Bush were "communists.” Such outbursts are relatively rare because they tend to spook independent voters, but his remarks accurately reflect the spirit of nationalist populism. There were many other ways to say the same thing without alarming independents and moderates.

So far the union of right-wing populism and extreme nationalism has not produced fascism, but it has clearly threatened the health of our democratic polity. John Lukacs believes the new populism could almost destroy democracy because it so easily degenerates into the tyranny of the majority. 'Nationalism is a very low and cheap common denominator that unites people,'' Lukacs says. ''It is hatred that unites people. People take satisfaction from the idea that we are good because our enemies are evil. This is a very American syndrome, but it is also universally true of mankind.'' Lukacs was one of the few conservative intellectuals to object to Senator Joseph McCarthy; it is likely that he will have even less company this time around.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is the Media Liberal?

The New Right rhetoric appealed to populist sentiments, through its fear of elites, and the indictment of an imaginary cultural elite. It was intended to retain the loyalty of cultural conservatives. Central to this position were complaints about the alleged bias of the so-called liberal media. Conservatives consider the New York Times an ultra-liberal paper even though a 2004 survey of journalists found that only 20% of them thought the Times even “takes a decidedly liberal point of view.” Although these loud complaints were heard for more than three decades, very little evidence was adduced to support these claims. In the sixties and seventies, when a liberal outlook was common in America, there may have been a liberal bias in the media. By the 1990s, the complaint could not be sustained by solid evidence, but lodging the complaint continued to inflame the New Right faithful. These complaints were designed mainly to convince people they were opposed by plotting and arrogant elitists, but the liberal media argument also persuaded people to reject information they did not like and accept whatever was said by the emerging right-wing information network

The press in the 1970s was blamed for the loss of the Vietnam War and for driving Richard Nixon from office. Of course, liberals thought that most of the media took too long in reporting what was really happening in Vietnam. It could also be noted that there were very few reports about Watergate developments in 1972. Bernard Goldberg, a CBS correspondent, claimed in 2002 that the media was biased against conservatives because it labeled them more often than it labeled liberals. This set off a debate about labeling that seemed to result in findings that politicians on both sides were labeled about the same number of times. He complained that the media spent too much time reporting on the homeless. Goldberg claimed that the census only recorded 600,000 of them and that they were largely responsible for their own plight. They were largely mentally ill, drug addicts, or drunks. Another complaint was about the coverage of Palestinian grievances. The fact that there were no Jewish suicide bombers, he argued, should have persuaded media people that Palestinian grievances did not require extensive coverage. The AIDs epidemic, he argued, was blown out of proportion. The media exaggerated the chances of straights contacting the deadly disease.

Ann Coulter complained that the press never mentions “the atheist left” or “atheist liberals” but frequently refers to “Christian conservatives” and the “Religious Right.” She claimed the latter two terms were used to smear people. However, an analysis of the conservative Washington Times for the year 2000 did not turn up either “atheist liberals” or “the atheist left, “ probably because there is no significant political force that could be identified this way. Stanford research scholar Geoffrey Nunberg looked into the matter of labeling and was surprised to discover that the average liberal had “a better than 30 percent greater likelihood of being given a political label than the average conservative does.” Some have complained that the term “right wing” is used more often than “left wing, ” but a study of Washington Times usage suggested that this leading conservative paper had a liberal bias because it used the term “left wing” more frequently than “right wing.”
A study of the use of labels by the several newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times found that liberal politicians had “a better than 30 percent greater likelihood of being given a political label” than conservatives. When commentary and editorials were eliminated, neither side was labeled more frequently. David Cotreau of Virginia Commonwealth University found that most journalists consider themselves centrists. Those who do not identify themselves this way were more likely to be conservative than liberal on economic issues and liberal on social issues. In general, the press tended to be somewhat more conservative than the general public. A more important test would be to keep track of how frequently the media reports information that is potentially damaging to conservative and liberal interests. A twenty-five year study conducted at Sonoma State University focused on important stories that received very little coverage. It concluded that the press sided with established economic, political, and social power bases by not paying attention to these matters.

Next to labeling, conservatives seem to be most unhappy about the way stories related to culture are reported. John Leo, a respected and very capable conservative journalist, complains that those who write news stories about gay marriage, the death penalty, cloning, benefits for illegal immigrants, racial preferences, and gay marriage make it clear that their personal views are different from those of most Americans. Presumably they do this by choice of words, such as affirmative action rather than racial preferences, or the facts they that they choose to include in their stories. Leo wrote, “Whether you call it a political bias or the class bias of a similarly educated elite, it amounts to the same thing. And it calls for the same reforms.” Of the seven syndicated columnists whose columns appeared in a hundred or more papers in 1990, four were conservatives, and only one-- Ellen Goodman-- was liberal, and few would consider her to be anything other than a very moderate liberal. Later, Leo admitted that two out of three political commentators are conservative and had no problem with that.

Decades before, Kevin Phillips wrote in Human Events that it appeared that government lacked the power to deal with “Big Media power” and that the First Amendment was “obsolescent” in this case. He thought “we need a new socioprudential approach that can solve the problem before the government throws the baby of a free press out with the bathwater of Liberal Establishment bunk.”
By and large, media people are neutral about religious matters, which means that they are essentially more at home with secularist than with the Religious Right. Their lack of familiarity with conservative religion is revealed by means of the adjectives that news writers use in reporting about it.

William McGowan offered a better critique of the media in Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism. He thought the problem was that most media people come from the well educated the sectors of middle and upper middle class. These people are essentially centrists. While on social questions, they may veer to the left, they tend to be centrists on economic questions.. Anything to the right of them seems very conservative and hard to comprehend. For that reason, they characterize unfamiliar views view to the right of them as very conservative or rightist. Anything that seems far out to the left of them they call “liberal, ” but the truth is that there are not that many liberals these days. By the nineties, right-wing criticisms of the press had made the media very sensitive to how it framed coverage on social, political, and economic matters and sought to avoid appearing to be liberal.
However, there is probably still some bias against conservative Protestants and critics of abortion and homosexuality. There also remains strong media bias against Roman Catholicism that reflects both the education of most journalists and a long-standing American tradition, but anti-Catholicism should not be confused with an anti-conservative bias.

It may well be true that most national journalists are Democrats, but this could work to the disadvantage of Democratic politicians. Journalists might understand Democrats better because they are people very similar to themselves, and the scribes are able to more quickly notice when things go awry for liberals. Journalists may also register much greater disappointment when Democrats disappoint them, as Bill Clinton did in many ways. Joshua Micah Marshall suggested that this was “ a large part of what made the media's relationship with the Clintonites so toxic.” On the other hand, the journalists had less in common with the MBAs and former CEO’s who staffed the second Bush administration and may have been confused or buffaloed by their claims to competence. They not notice that Vice President Cheney, while leading Haliburton, was snookered into a disastrous merger that eventually cost the firm billions in asbestos claims. The Bushies start meetings on time, and no one leaked information to the press, which the scribes seemed to accept as evidence to support the claim that the administration was competent and efficient.

Since the Reagan years, there have been more indications that the press could actually be tilting toward the right, but conservative spokesmen have not noticed this. John Pilger, the noted Australian and British journalist, argues that most English-speaking journalist think they are objective, and do not sit down and think, “I’m now going to speak for the establishment.” The problem is that they have internalized so many middle class and middle of the road assumptions that they cannot avoid speaking for the powers that be.” It would seem that the so-called “right” and “left” are labeled with about equal frequency. In most cases, it probably reflects mental laziness rather than ideological bias. Those who object to using these labels have a point; they are seldom accurate or very useful.

In the eighties, the electronic media allowed itself to be manipulated by the popular Reagan administration. Reagan had fewer press conferences than any other modern president except George W. Bush. It was obsessed with secrecy and tightly controlled access to information. When White House officials appeared on television, the networks were forced to agree that they be given unequal time. When Senator Christopher Dodd appeared on David Brinkley’s Sunday program in 1984, the White House required that he be shown between two Reagan spokesmen and that he be given less time than either of them. Secretary of State George Schultz would not appear on Face the Nation unless he was given two-thirds the air time allotted to political spokesmen.

It is almost an article of faith for conservatives that the media is biased toward liberalism. An analysis of media output in 1992 found that even when media accounts were balanced and unbiased, Republicans perceived the media as hostile to their candidates. It did not matter that journalists, perhaps influenced by the bandwagon effect, often picked up stories from the Republican National Committee and printed them with no effort at verification. For example, the story that Al Gore held a fundraiser at the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple in 2000 was repeated so often that Roger Parloff’s thorough rebuttal in the American Lawyer did not stop its spread or lead to corrections.

Similarly, there was no effort to examine the veracity of the GOP-inspired story that Gore said he invented the Internet. Even though television presented more balanced coverage, but Republicans saw it as more “hostile” than the newspapers. The study also showed that the media was biased toward Clinton that year perhaps as part of a bandwagon effect rather than out of agreement with a particular outlook. Many customarily Republican outlets were supporting Bill Clinton. Although the above study found that newspaper content tilted toward Clinton in 1992, a huge majority of the nation’s newspapers endorsed the reelection of George H.W. Bush, and in 1996 that majority backed Bob Dole against Bill Clinton.

Four years later, a majority of the big metropolitan dailies backed the election of George W. Bush against Al Gore. Despite these facts, conservatives continue to complain about a liberal press. The claim of media bias also arises when the media reports something conservatives think should not be reported. Rush Limbaugh, who complains daily about a so-called liberal bias, becomes enraged when the press reports Democratic comments that are critical of Republicans. He denounced the New England press for reporting a speech of Ted Kennedy in which he complained that President George W. Bush had offered very incomplete plans on what the US would do in Iraq after the Second Gulf War.

In another example of alleged media bias, the conservative Media Research Center, before the beginning of the Second Gulf War, criticized ABC News because Peter Jennings asked soldiers “inappropriate” questions. He had asked if they felt any anxiety about the prospect of fighting. At the same time, Republican Congressmen were asking Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld why he had not imposed censorship on the media.

In 1996, when Republican Steve Forbes advocated a flat tax, the press pointed out that it would most benefit the rich. Conservatives argued that printing this claim showed that the press had a bias against conservative ideas. Showing the effect of the proposal may have helped Bob Dole, a man who has never been accused of being a liberal, in the Republican primaries, . Speaking about the coverage of his presidential campaigns, Patrick Buchanan admitted:, “I’ve gotten balanced coverage, and broad coverage --all we could have asked. For heaven sakes, we kid about the “liberal media.’ “ Conservative journalist Bill Kristol acknowledged in 2000 “The press isn't quite as biased and liberal. They're actually conservative sometimes,” and told someone else that “The whole idea of the 'liberal media' was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.”

There was even considerable evidence that conservative complaints about a liberal media had intimidated the print and electronic press sufficiently to assure conservatives favorable coverage. Screaming about “liberal bias” has been likened to “working the ref” in basketball and football. It has persuaded the established media that it must sometimes “bend over backward to prove they weren’t liberal after all. “ Former GOP national chairman Rich Bond admitted in 1992 that complaints about the liberal media was a strategy similar how a Little League coach would “work the refs” because “Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one.”

The strategy of working the ref was implemented by three conservative organizations that screened media output. Accuracy in Media, founded in the 1970s, was founded by Reed Irvine, who looked for items that were favorable to big government or supposedly hostile to business, the family or religion. He later developed the theory that Kenneth Starr had covered up evidence that Clintons were responsible for the death of Vincent Foster. The Media Research Center, operated by William F. Buckley’s nephew L. Brent Bozell, III, is well financed and operates the most highly developed media monitoring operation. It makes no secret of the fact that it is a Republican operation. People from MRC are frequently featured on talk shows, and the press pays close attention to its complaints of unfairness. The Center for Media and Public Affairs is smaller and sometimes more objective than the two larger operations. All these complaints about the media run counter to the fact that huge corporations own the electronic media and that the print media is overwhelmingly in the hands of Republicans. In 2000, twice as many newspapers endorsed George W. Bush as those that gave Al Gore the nod.

These complaints and the impression that the nation is moving to the right has given media content a much more conservative coloration. Media outlets have been rushing to hire conservative commentators since the 1980s. In 2003, an ABC spokesman explained why John Stossel was made an anchor on the program “2 0/20” by noting that the country had become conservative. He said,” the network wanted somebody to match the times.” If this explanation has validity, it would help account for why the press appeared friendly to liberal policies in the years of liberal ascendancy.

No matter how much the media modifies its coverage to answer Republican criticisms, it is doubtful if the complaints about a liberal media will diminish. Such criticisms are very effective in fueling right-wing populism with its sense of victimhood at the hands of an evil elite. People on the New Right feel ennobled by persecution and are energized by just rage. In time, New Right political philosophy would assume, for many of its adherents, the form of a religion for many of its adherents. They blended with it an intense professed patriotism, but often these people who spoke so often of their love of America made it clear that they could not stand many other Americans, particularly liberals who made them fearful for the nation’s survival because these people were to blame for most that ailed the nation. Goldwater and the new conservatives inspired many to enter the political arena, and over three decades they became Republican Congressmen and senators and filled important places in state parties and governments. Some would become staffers in Republican administrations.

American right-wing populism it is very attractive to small entrepreneurs and ordinary Americans, often members of the white working class. In both Europe and America white males from the working class were particularly attracted to populism. They faced job insecurity and declining standards of living, and, especially in the United States, they resented the loss of privileges that had traditionally flowed from their status as white males. Yearning for the restoration of their roles as defenders and providers, some American men even joined militias, extremist organizations that display the repressive dimensions of right-wing populism when it is carried too far.

The New Right fed on the resentments of both conservative church people and the economic frustrations of many working Americans. Very often both forces were at work in attracting people to this new political force, which claimed the banner of true conservatism. Since the early 1970s, more and more workers faced economic insecurity and declining benefits and real wages. Over time a collective emotional state fear and anger emerged and grew among many in Middle America; it was generated largely by economic forces but was most easily expressed in cultural and religious terms. The emergence of the New Right also benefited from more concrete and identifiable factors. There were numerous, well heeled secular backers of the New Right. Some of them were the John Randolph Club, the Progress and Freedom Foundation, and the Council for National Policy. Yet, most of the New Right’s support came from church people. The views of the New Right appealed to religious conservatives because they seemed to be calling for a return to traditional moral and economic principles.

Neoliberal thought, by applying “rational choice” economic models to social policy questions, has preempted areas where religiously based theories of morality once prevailed. There was initially a problem in convincing some religious conservatives that they should see greed as productive and that the unrestrained pursuit of wealth was not necessarily a betrayal of Biblical values. In time they seem to have concluded that the market was a God-ordained force and that greed was a natural force designed to drive economic operations. However, there was also the evangelical Christian view that economics and religion were separate spheres. This made it easier for these believers to ally with the Republicans, and, for a time, overlook policies not to their liking. In time, however, they were to become true believers in new conservative economics. Perhaps the appeal of neoliberalism to conservative Christians is that their God is the historical American Protestant deity who is “the narrowed Lord of persons, not of hosts; he is conspicuously not the Lord of history.”

After 9/11, this traditional Protestant God was enlisted in the war against terrorism but his scope otherwise seems to remain rather narrow. Disappointed by the identification of Christianity with imperialism, militarism, homophobia, and some of the least desirable features of capitalism, a British observer wrote in 2004,”Too many [Americans] who profess to be Christians hold values that I see as inimical to the faith. In fact, America could do with an infusion of godly values.” It may be that the new Republican base can only deal with its fears by attacking foreign enemies. Their insecurities are seemingly of a primordial nature and can only be exorcized if the United States acts as an agent of divine redemption to spread democratic institutions to other places in the world.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line at http://www.lulu.com/browse/search

Conservatives as Victims

Victimhood and the “ New Class” Argument
The New Right claims that the glue that holds them together is a deep attachment to moral values. Yet, these people have yet to shun Republican politicians whose personal lives have been revealed to be characterized by immorality and degenerate practices. It is far more likely that the main defining characteristic of the New Right is a sense of victimhood, epitomized by the so-called New Class argument. A consistent, overarching indictment of the so-called liberal cultural elite first appeared in the form of an attack on what was called the” New Class.” This attack on a so-called liberal elite had a particular appeal to the New Right, but it was also attractive to other elements in the party and had the effect of cementing ties between the various elements in the new conservative coalition. It also provided a framework in which the old charges of communism, socialism, and treason could be blended with those of immorality and, by the eighties, political correctness-- a term being used to describe what they considered to be excessive efforts to enforce racial and cultural sensitivity, especially in the universities.

Many members of the New Right felt as though they were cultural outsiders and were very receptive to the argument that there was a “New Class” that had gained too much power and which was destroying American culture. It was argued that liberal members of the New Class were elitists who had contempt for ordinary folks and hated America. This attack on a supposed elite had great populist appeal. In selling neoliberal economics and cultural conservatism, the New Right waged cultural war against what they called “the New Class,” academicians, media people, and intellectuals who were supposed to be deeply committed to uprooting traditional American values. They were bureaucrats, “verbalists,” “elitists,” and “pointy heads” -- a term they borrowed from George Wallace. Peggy Noonan lamented that “our great universities [are controlled by people] who seem to hold little intellectual or emotional attachment to the Constitution.” The New Class included some eastern “bluestocking Republicans” who frequented cocktail parties and polluted the Republican Party with their moderate views.

What was conveniently forgotten was that many of the conservatives own pundits and theorists had the benefit of elite educations. William Rusher and M. Stanton Evans attended Yale, and Pat Buchanan was a graduate of Georgetown. Kevin Phillips attended Harvard and the London School of Economics, and Howard Phillips went to Harvard. The right-wing cultural warriors succeeded in persuading many that this was the “elite” to be feared. In time, all liberals were portrayed as sharing the attributes of the New Class. John Mc Cain, a maverick Arizona Republican senator, expressed disdain for this approach to partisanship “which considers political opponents as inferior moral characters.” He thought such characterizations banished civility from debate and damaged the political process.

The concept of the New Class was a badly flawed sociological portrait of liberals , designed to include electronic media and motion picture people, intellectuals, academicians, journalists, government professionals, authors, and speech writers. Its roots were in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s right-wing populist indictments of diplomats in striped pants, their over-educated supports, and the eastern establishment that dominated the Republican Party. Even though the New Class included right-wing intellectuals, speech writers, and journalists, it was portrayed as a left-leaning, malevolent, and power hungry, unproductive elite with inordinate power. Their patriotism was in question because they backed Jimmy Carter’s Panama Canal treaty. The morality of the New Class was considered clearly beyond the pale of acceptability because it was responsible for electing liberal judges and supporting permissiveness in schools and elsewhere. The charge of permissiveness was meant to associate the New Class with drugs, abortion, promiscuity, obscenity, and homosexuality. The New Class was also associated with forced busing in the schools, gun control, gay rights, abortion, and reverse discrimination.

Long after the term “New Class” was no longer employed, this argument provided the basis for very effective attacks on “Hollywood liberals,” “eastern establishment liberals,” “liberal eggheads,” and limousine liberals.” Vice President Spiro T. Agnew’s highly effective, though misleading, denunciations of this elite were very effective in fueling resentment of the New Class. Denunciation of the New Class and Agnew’s denunciation of a liberal elite were designed to drive a wedge between blue-collar workers and their traditional allies among intellectuals and academicians. Nixon and Agnew experimented with this cultural populism to good effect. At the time of Nixon’s resignation in 1974, about a third of American voters still remained committed to him.

This rhetoric was intended to remind people of their distaste for the lifestyles associated with liberalism. In fact, more than a few conservative politicians and publicists were homosexual, and many liberals rejected the excesses of the 1960s. Few in the New Right recalled that the liberals of those years usually did not endorse the lifestyles of the New Left . It was simply assumed that almost all liberals opposed family values and could be considered degenerates. At the 1992 Republican National Convention, columnist Pat Buchanan gave a speech entitled “The election is about Who We Are: Taking Back the Country,” a classic presentation of the New Right’s cultural argument. Claiming that the cultural war was as important as the Cold War, he complained that the Democrats were pro-lesbian, pro-gay, and soft on crime. Nixon’s former speech-writer insisted that “we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.”

These claims against the Democrats were excessive, but the Democrats injured themselves in the early seventies with frequent calls for guaranteed incomes and what seemed to be a tendency toward fiscal profligacy. The internal party reforms of that era alienated old line Democrats and disarmed some of the party’s most effective activists. The party mechanism itself had been badly damaged when President Lyndon Johnson stripped it of operating funds because he feared the staff was allied with the Kennedys. Some saw proposed family assistance and income distribution plans as a sign the party was more concerned with helping minorities than with assisting its traditional white, blue collar base. By 1974, the party’s ”liberal hour” was over, and many of the new people entering Congress were more interested in a new moralistic agenda than in defending and extending the New Deal and the Fair Deal.
The New Left radicals constantly ridiculed the political thought and moderation of many of their professors, liberal politicians, and the so-called Old Left. Many liberal academicians and professors expressed grave concerns about the deterioration of values for which they were now denounced. Economic permissiveness that was expressed in unrestrained consumerism contributed to deteriorating values, and the New Right’s political philosophy endorsed the economic philosophy that created reckless competition, a materialistic approach to life, and advertising excesses that threatened traditional values.

Conservatives were right in identifying many motion picture people as being liberals whose works assaulted conventional values. Ironically, these cinema people detested the results of unrestrained capitalism but could not admit that their work often added to the damage. It is also true that some liberals gave conservatives ammunition with which to buttress their arguments. Some were outspoken in their defense of pornography, drugs, and abortion under any circumstances. Reverend Jesse Jackson once admitted as much. They allowed liberalism to be identified with an irresponsible freedom: “It became free speech turned into license for obscenity, pornography, abortion, smoking pot. The liberal movement got trapped with all the decadent fallout and [the appearance of] no values.” Liberals also helped their critics by seeming to redefine “common people” to mean only the most disadvantaged. By appearing to lose interest in the concerns of white working people, they allowed their critics to masquerade as populists defending ordinary people
Conservatives did not use the term “New Class” for very long, but the concept became the core of right wing populism, in which many came to believe they were being assaulted by a treacherous class comprised of tenured radicals, know-everything bureaucrats, an allegedly liberal media, and pro-criminal judges. The term did not reappear after the seventies, but the theme was continued and remained effective. These denunciations of a cultural elite with its commitment to political correctness and permissiveness, served as “the populist battering-ram behind which the Right made the case for tax cuts for the wealthy and welfare minimalism for the poor. “ By ridiculing liberalism's 'politically correct' nostrums, conservatives were able to ridicule the whole liberal enterprise.”

New Right thinkers eventually stopped talking about the New Class, but the same argument was used in other terms. Republican propagandists framed it in terms of elitists (and sometimes traitors) arrayed against Real Americans. . The objects of their attacks became “liberals,” essentially anyone who was to the left of them. Even after the turn of the century, when neoliberalism had become the dominant American political ideology, conservatives wrote as though they were a beleaguered minority, faced with the task of battling entrenched liberalism. William Bennett argued that the liberals constituted an “adversary culture” comprised of various Leftists, multiculturalists, moral relativists, and postmodernists who allegedly had an iron grip on the nation’s cultural and educational institutions. In the colleges, liberals taught students that wrong was right and that the United States was responsible for most of the world’s problems. He suggested that a “vast relearning” was needed, and that people subjected to liberal influence must learn how to recover the American ideal or the American vision. Of course the American vision was synonymous with neoliberalism and antithetical to liberalism.

Denish D’Souza saw “the Starbucks guy” as the personification of the new American created by the liberals. This Starbucks guy has a nose ring and a Mohawk haircut and thinks that Judge Robert Bork and Bennett are “self-righteous mullah[s],” “fascists,” and “enemies of freedom.” However, D’Souza is that rare conservative who thinks it is worthwhile to talk to the Starbucks guy and that a few of his ideas might be worth considering. An associate editor of the conservative Clarendon Review of Books could describe conservatives as the “good guys” or “pro-American Right” which was fighting the Left, “that commands the strategic cultural heights of the Ivory Tower and Hollywood Hills.” The editor of the Rockford Institute’s Chronicles, writing at about the same time, spoke for the Christian Right when he asserted that conservatives had a right to run the country. “We don’t have to be rude or call them names. We can tell them, ever so politely, that ours is the party of Christ and theirs is the party of the Antichrist.”

New Right operative Howard Phillips was on the same wavelength when he called for “a return to Biblical law.” Another variant of the argument appeared early in the Twenty First Century, when American society was seen as divided between the nationalists and the cosmopolitans. The nationalists were seen as down-to-earth, God fearing, plainspoken people like George W. Bush. The cosmopolitans included the mainstream journalistic world that “too often represents the ultimate me, me, me culture of today’s international elite.”

In 1988, George H.W. Bush employed a variant of the New Class argument when he denounced “Harvard boutique” ideas of the people who supported Michael Dukakis. It did not matter that Bush had attended Yale, another Ivy League bastion of privilege. Republicans regularly denounce the “Hollywood elite” and the “intellectual elite,” and George W. Bush condemned Ann Richards in 1994 for going to California to raise campaign money from the “liberal elite.” At the same time, Jeb Bush, running for governor in Florida, claimed that his views were “mainstream ideas, ideas that matter, whether the intellectual elite in this state likes them or not.” Republicans have been able to neutralize much of the criticism of their economic ideas as “class warfare,” but they have used variants of the New Class theme to demonize their opposition and distract attention from economic policies that largely benefit one economic class.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!